A few nights ago, my 15 year old son and I were discussing, actually debating, the state of the pro-life movement in Texas and the nation. Jon Michael will make a fine trial lawyer. He is zealous about his strong opinions and he is not shy about expressing himself on wide ranging subjects beyond what teens usually talk about like sports, Xbox games, movies, music and all that stuff on iPhones.
For sure he is an avid Xbox gamer, knows about all the Marvel super-hero movie characters but he really enjoyed the Darkest Hour biopic I recently took him to about Winston Churchill’s trials during the dark days of WWII when England’s army was on the verge of total annihilation at Dunkirk and members of the British parliament were pressuring the new prime minister to negotiate and make peace with Hitler.
Last weekend we had pro-life events spanning all day Saturday and an outdoor rally on Sunday afternoon to commemorate that dark day 45 years ago on January 23, 1973 when seven black-robed men on the Supreme Court ruled that human beings growing in their mothers’ wombs were not protected by our constitution. Essentially, Associate Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun who wrote the majority opinion for the high court confessed that at that time there was no way of knowing for certain when life truly begins. While the original Roe decision was somewhat limited in scope, the companion case, Doe v. Bolton, heard on the same day, opened up Pandora’s Box to unlimited abortion by ruling that abortion exceptions for the life and health of the mother were licit. These two rulings obliterated all protections for vulnerable humans growing in their mother’s wombs, out of sight and out of mind. All abortion laws throughout the fifty states were effectively ruled unconstitutional.
What does health of the mother mean? Her life at risk from pregnancy complications? Her mental state? Emotional health? You understand the problem. My 15 year old did too. I related to him the meeting we had with Fr. Stephen Imbarrato of Priests for Life who visited San Antonio last weekend and spoke to a group of pro-life advocates and activists on Saturday afternoon and at the rally on Sunday afternoon. I attended Mass at a home with Fr. Imbarrato, celebrated on Sunday morning. Father lives and breathes pro-life, a militant and courageous warrior defending all babies from the terrible abomination of abortion. He is blunt and direct and is totally committed to his mission to defend unborn life, working tirelessly for the day that legalized abortion is abolished.
I first met Fr. Imbarrato at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Rio Rancho, New Mexico where I lived for six years before moving to San Antonio.I attended Mass where he preached for the first time as a newly ordained priest of the archdiocese of Santa Fe. He was a late vocation, called to the priesthood after a career as a small business owner. In his homily, one of the most heart wrenching I’ve ever heard, he related that as a young man he coerced his girlfriend and paid for the abortion of his unborn child. He later found out that she actually aborted twins.
Apparently the Almighty had plans for Stephen Imbarrato. Like the proverbial “Hound of Heaven” in Francis Thompson’s poem, Stephen fled from Him who sees all, “down the arches of the years” much later driven back into His loving arms, eventually answering a call to the Catholic priesthood, now atoning for his terrible sin, witnessing like an Old Testament prophet calling the nation to repentance and healing.
This brings me back to the topic of my fifteen year old son. I told him that Fr. Imbarrato has been leading “Red Rose” rescues, explaining to him that Father Stephen and a few friends, mostly women, enter abortion centers and engage abortion-bound women, hand them a rose, and attempt to convince them to cancel their appointment and receive assistance from pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors. When they’re asked to leave, the Red Rose Rescuers stay. If and when law enforcement officers come, they peacefully resist to allow mothers and babies to enjoy life longer and the delay potentially results in the departure and turn-around of the mother who decides to give her baby the gift of life and sometimes offer the baby the loving option of adoption.
My son snapped back and responded that it was trespassing and unlawful. The Red Rose rescuers should leave and obey the law. He was somewhat indignant and scornful that a priest and his colleagues would violate the law.
We then talked about the American abolitionists who organized the underground railroad to rescue the slaves fleeing from their masters in the South. Many of them were clergymen and faithful Christians. Jon shot back, “What about John Brown?” Yes, I told him, he was right. John Brown was committing violence for admittedly good intentions which was not the Christian way. Those who live by the sword die by it and members of Brown’s family suffered from this course of action.
Then I pointed to the crucifix in the living room. “What about Him,” I asked? Christ suffered and died for us. He resisted the evil of the religious leaders of His time and called them out as hypocrites and “whitewashed sepulchres” (Mt 23:27) but, unlike Barabbas, He did not resort to violence. He was a sacrificial lamb.
So were Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King – peaceful men who both encountered bigotry, racism, hateful persecution. Both were assassinated but never did they commit violence. Sacrificial lambs.
Then we talked about the movie we had just finished watching – The Swing Kids – about two young German teens coming of age during the rise of Nazism. Both loved American Jazz music and dancing while the Hitler Youth were being brainwashed to hate all things Jewish and other “inferior races” including jazz greats, Benny Goodman and African-American Duke Ellington, whose records the swing kids loved. One of the boys was turned by the Nazis and even reported his father who opposed Hitler. The other in the end was taken to a work camp for refusing to be swayed by the propaganda.
So Jon and I ended our father and son discussion by comparing the choices of those two German boys. One chose to embrace the evil as the nation succumbed to the beguiling messages of national greatness and pride hiding the evil purposes and the insanity of Nazi doctrine. We talked about the Nuremberg Trials where scholarly men of the law went along with racial laws that condemned hundreds of thousands of German Jews to death.
Jon began to understand that trespassing on abortuary property is not unlawful in the eyes of Almighty God. How about the courage of those harboring so called criminals like Anne Frank and her Jewish family, a dangerous enterprise for the Amsterdam neighbors who were violating Dutch laws, subject to severe punishment if caught? By defying those Nazi mandated laws, were these honest, law-abiding “rescuers” committing a crime? Certainly not against God’s law and, truly, were they not called to to a higher and just law, to protect and hide the Jews, their neighbors, innocent victims of unjust bigotry and persecution?
Such laws especially with regards to abortion and same sex “marriages” are not worthy of our support, although we are law-abiding Americans. As the Nuremberg trials proved, any positive (man-made) law that violates the sovereign rights of human beings especially the right to live and the freedom to be born to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” or defies natural law is unjust and evil which must be resisted. Any law in direct conflict with and defies Divine and natural law is an abomination before God. Why did their neighbors allow Jewish friends to be taken away and be slaughtered in Nazi Germany? These were their neighbors and friends whom they worked with in the same factories and shops, Jewish children their sons and daughters went to school and played with.
Such was the opportunity last week that allowed a father to teach his son about the tenacious, bull-headed courage and perseverance of Winston Churchill, the righteousness of non-violent civil disobedience, and the meaning of Christian sacrifice and love, to ponder the events of last weekend as we came together as a pro-life community in San Antonio to pray and witness to the evil curse of legalized abortion that we have been forced to endure for 45 years, an unspeakable evil that has enveloped our beloved nation, a special place richly blessed by Divine providence, showered with abundant gifts by God. Churchill’s rallying cry in the early dark days of WWII came to my mind at the Sunday rally:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941
I will forever cherish the time we spent together, father and son, to reflect on the eternal question the Jewish scholar asked our Savior in Matthew 22:36-40:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”